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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Bhutto and Khan: A fair comparison?

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Hafiz Inam |

Interestingly, the two politicians, Imran Khan and Z. A. Bhutto, are often compared to each other on the social media. Analysts place both in juxtaposition while shedding light on the points where both the politicians either converge or diverge. There is nothing wrong with doing it. It rather highlights a positive tendency of linking the forgotten past to the present in an attempt to foretell the future. But sagacity suggests a judicious analysis while drawing a comparison between both of them.

Mr. Bhutto was blessed with a multitude of capabilities and he used it profusely, but he also exhibited tendencies of a civil dictator imbibed with ruthless power and unrestrained authority.

Mr. Bhutto was a genuine politician. His political persona was an amalgamation of shrewdness, charisma, and competence. He rose to the power circle with the help of Ayub Khan and enjoyed his patronage till the end of the 1965 war. Some analysts even named him the mastermind of the Operation Gibraltar which led to a 17-day war with India. Discerning enough, he distanced himself from the sinking boat of Ayub Khan when he sensed the collapse of his regime, and later founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The party won the majority in West Pakistan in the 1970’s general elections.

Read more: Quaid-e-Awam vs Kaptaan: ‘Andhi’ can only come from Lahore!

On the contrary, Imran Khan has a capricious nature – often gets carried away in emotions which are not expected from a politician in this part of the world. He embarked on a political journey in 1996 when he created Pakistan Tahreek Insaf (PTI) to challenge the bipartisan political landscape of the country.

Mr. Bhutto was blessed with a multitude of capabilities and he used it profusely, but he also exhibited tendencies of a civil dictator imbibed with ruthless power and unrestrained authority. Though he claimed himself democratic, he never encouraged a strong opposition in the assembly. Rather all the potent anti-Bhutto voices were silenced. He felt insecure against the onslaught of a strong political opposition. He used the Federal Security Force (FSF) to pulverize any political figure who dared to take up the gauntlet against him. The Dalai camp in Azad Kashmir became the center of torturing political activists by the Bhutto administration.

More than four years have passed since Imran Khan’s  government has risen to power in KPK, yet none of his opponents claim a life threat from him under his party’s rule in the province.

Ministers like Choudhary Irshad and Iftikhar Tarri spent considerable time in the prison camp for having opposed Z. A. Bhutto. People like Khawaja Mohammad Rafiq (father of Khawaja Saad Rafiq), Abdus Samad Achakzai (leader of the NAP, Balochistan), Molvi Shamsuddin (Deputy Speaker of Balochistan Assembly), and Nawab Mohammad Kasuri (father of Ahmad Raza Kasuri) were brutally assassinated during Bhutto’s government. Relatives of the victims accused Bhutto of the killings. Recently the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has declassified its documents which have attracted readership globally. The declassified papers show that the CIA had already foreseen the sad demise of Bhutto, four years prior to his hanging, and this was mentioned in a memo dated May 30, 1979.

“Bhutto’s penchant for using repressive tactics against his opponents could backfire. The Strong opposition could flare up over a number of issues, and the armed forces could grow tired of helping Bhutto fight his political battles.”

Read more: Pakistan suffers: The corrupts are made heroes

It is a tragedy that a political figure like Bhutto was digging his own grave by converting his friends into foes, and it was being done with the consent of the military establishment.

In comparison, Imran Khan was and is being charged with many allegations, but not of murders or maltreatment of his political opponents. More than four years have passed since his government has risen to power in KPK, yet none of his opponents claim a life threat from Imran Khan under his party’s rule in the province.

Mr. Bhutto will be remembered in the political history, along with his celebrated accomplishments in different political spheres, for the role he played in the most unfortunate incident of our history – the debacle of Dhaka. He acted as a stubborn politician who, by hook or by crook, wanted the ascendency. Although his party had won 88 seats in the national assembly out of 310, he deliberately buttressed Yahya Khan for delaying the transfer of power to East Pakistan. He took an oath from his elected party workers on February 21, 1971, on boycotting the inaugural national assembly session. He openly chastised Sheikh Mujib and refused to “accept a traitor as his Prime Minister.”

As far as Imran Khan is concerned, it is hard to presume he would have done the same had he been in the place of Bhutto at that time.

Read more: Has PTI’s ‘change’ been killed by ‘corporatisation’?

Hence, it proves nothing is common between them except charisma and vibrant support Imran is enjoying and Bhutto had enjoyed in the past.

Hafiz Inam is a freelance journalist and blog writer. He has completed his MBA from Karachi. He writes on national and regional politics. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.